investigations show that humans have lived in or around what is now Madrid for
more than 100,000 years.
appearance in the history books begins, however, in the ninth century, when Cordoban
emir Abderraman II built a fortress here to defend the local population against
attacks from Castile and Leon.
by Alfonso VI in 1085, Madrid continued to be an obscure village very much overshadowed
by the grandeur of nearby Toledo until the 1500s.
was in that era when Charles V took favor on the city, granting Madrid the right
to use the royal crown in the city seal.
Madrid really started on the road to the city we know today when Charles´son,
Phillip II, made it the capital of Spain in 1561.
location smack in the middle of the Iberian peninsula certainly played a part
in that decision. Perhaps equally important was the lack of non-royal power centers
in Madrid -- the Spanish church was headquartered safely down the road in the
former capital Toledo, and the city had not built up a class of important local
merchants or nobles the way more established cities such as Valladolid or Burgos
grew rapidly as the seat of government. With no navigable rivers leading to it,
and with long and dusty roads between it and other population centers in Spain,
the city focused very much on the crown and the court. Not only Spain, but a world
empire covering most of the Americans and stretching across broad swaths of the
Pacific was administered from this dusty town high on the Castilian plain.
Hapsburg rulers oversaw the building of much of historical Madrid. The Plaza Mayor
dates from this era, as do many notable churches as well as private homes.
the early 1700´s, after the last Hapsburg king died without heir, a branch
of the French royal Bourbon family took the thrown in Madrid. Bourbon Madrid includes
the Palacio Real, the royal palace,l as well as the building that now houses the
in the 1800s, Napoleon placed his brother Joseph Bonaparte on the Spanish throne.
Although in many ways a progressive and enlightened ruler, he was wildly unpopular,
and in 1808 the city rose up against him. Following the Peninsular Wars, the Bourbons
resumed the Spanish throne, although with a growing parliamentary influence.
this era, Madrid´s geographical isolation began to ease, as railroads connected
the city to other parts of Spain. Modern urban design also began to clear out
portions of the old city´s warren of small streets, whether with the creation
of the Plaza de Oriente by Bonaparte or the creation of the Gran Via in the later
year of the century.
twentieth century brought continued growth and modernization, until the outbreak
of the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s. Battles raged just a few dozen blocks from
downtown Madrid throughout the war. The city was held by the Republicans, and
was attacked by the Nationalist forces under General Franco. Franco´s troops
fired artillery shells into the city so regularly that the Gran Via became known
as ¨Howitzer Alley.¨
the Civil War, a new wave of building came to Madrid as the city expanded far
beyond its pre-war borders. The 19th century urban model was largely repeated
in the growth, with relatively low rise six or seven story apartment buildings
mixing medium population density with stores and offices on the lower floors.
the end of Franco´s dictatorship, Madrid served as the focus of the ¨movida,¨
a wild period of new-experienced freedoms and vibrant nightlife in the late seventies
and early eighties, analogous in some ways to the social movements of the 60s
in other Western countries. On the political front, Madrid saw the emergence of
strong constitutional democracy.
longer the home of an empire, Madrid continues to be one of Europe´s most
dynamic international capitals.